BELOVED BRETHREN IN THE LORD:
The Brethren and Churches, composing the North Bend Association, avail themselves of the present opportunity to address you by a letter; in which we send Christian salutation.
The friendly feelings which brought this body into existence, are highly honorable to the Christian character, and afford the best opportunity for strengthening those bonds of love and friendship which characterize those who profess to know the Lord, and profess that faith which works by love. Under the influence of the same, there is joy in meeting with our brethren and sisters from various sections of the country, which can only be realized by those who have tasted that the Lord is gracious. When we meet and mingle together in the spirit of the Gospel, the best feelings of our hearts are roused into actions, and all the Christian virtues are brought to concentrate on that great and glorious cause which brought the Saviour of sinners into the world, even the glory of God, the peace of Zion, and the welfare of never-dying souls. Such was the spirit, we believe, by which our fathers and brethren were actuated for many years. Many have ceased from their labors of love, and their works do follow them. For the history of whom, we refer to our last Circular; in which we have a full and interesting account, up to that date, of the progress of this Association. Brethren, since that, one year has rolled round, which has caused a difference in the appearance of the body, as to number. At our last, much dissatisfaction was manifested, and a spirit of harshness and bitter-ness could be seen, which was gendering strife. Since that, many of those with whom we once took delight have gone out from us, and walk no more with us; yet it still remains to be our high privilege, through the mercy of our Heavenly Father, to meet with the Churches belonging to the North Bend Association, and join in the worship and service of the Lord.
When we are gathered together in the Spirit of our God, and the word of Christ dwelling richly in us, we have reason to believe and hope the Lord will bless and revive us. Our meeting so far has been harmonious. Though we have not had from the Churches the pleasing account of very many additions by experience and baptism, as at our last, yet we learn that the Lord has still been gracious, and there are some who have given evidence of their hope in Jesus, by publicly putting on Christ, according to his word.
Brethren, we have professed to know the Lord, and own that by grace we are saved, through fatth [faith]; and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God. Let us now consider the nature of that religion which the Bible teaches, and the effects of that faith which corresponds with the Gospel of Christ; and in no case attempt to dictate for God, by setting up the opinions of men as a standard; whose opinions may often be in opposition to the blessed Gospel of the Saviour, and therefore at war with his divine commands. As we have learned Christ, so let us abide in him, and examine the rule for faith and practice that he has given, remembering our first love, and the teachings of the Holy Spirit which brought us to Christ, and daily endeavor to add to our faith those spiritual graces which the Scripture teaches. When these things are practiced the Christians will neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour.
Brethren and sisters, we have the word of God to read, and the privilege of hearing the Gospel preached. That you may better understand the same, we exhort you to read, with prayerful attention — (all that can.) You will then be better prepared to know who to bid God speed, and who it is that comes to you in the Gospel of Christ, and teaches accordingly. In the word, we have the example as laid down by the Saviour, and carried out by his apostles. They preached every where the doctrine of repentance and salvation in Jesus Christ alone; who is Lord both of heaven and earth,and able to save perishing sinners, through the blood of the cross, and because he ever lives, and grants repentance and remission of sins to humble penitents.
Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles, was determined to know nothing among the Corinthians, save Jesus Christ and him crucified, and exhorted his brethren not to glory in men; for they were only servants, for Jesus' sake. We hear him saying, Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man. The same apostle who magnified his office, acknowledged himself debtor both to the Greeks, and also to the barbarians, both to the wise and the unwise; and as a witness, or mouth for God, speaking the truth in Christ, he renounced all dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth, commending himself to every man's conscience, in the sight of God. In this our day, perhaps, some would make light of that manner of preaching, as it might come in contact with their opinions. Nevertheless, we think it meet, brethren, to stir up your minds by way of remembrance, that ye be not soon moved, nor shaken from those heavenly truths that belong to the Gospel of Christ. It does appear to us, that if the command of the Saviour, and the example given by himself, and observed by his immediate followers, were practiced more by the teachers of the people at the present day, there would be less time and room for disputations, perverting the word, and causing divisions in Churches, to the injury of the cause of truth and Godliness. In conformity to the spirit of the Gospel, we say, that the humble minister of Jesus never desires to glory in himself; neither will he endeavor to sow the seeds of discord, or seek, in any way, to cause divisions amongst brethren, that he himself may obtain a name, and enter in upon other men's labors. No, brethren, these things would be far from the spirit of the Gospel, which Paul was under as a minister of Christ. (Christians are called upon to mark those who cause divisions.)
Again, brethren and sisters, we ask you to suffer the word of exhortation, and to seek those things which make for peace, and the things wherewith one may edify and instruct another. We are also called upon to let our light shine. It was said by the Saviour to the disciples, Ye are the light of the world: a city that is set on a hill cannot be hid; and again, Ye are the salt of the earth. We, therefore, entreat you by all that is lovely, and by the sacred truths of which we profess to be witnesses, that you be prayerful, watchful, and diligent in the discharge of every Christian duty. Oh, brethren, let us, with united heart and voice supplicate the throne of grace, and ask the Lord to revive his work amongst us, and cause Zion to travail; for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought for her children; and so when the Churches were established in the faith, they increased in number daily.
A few things more concerning of faith, before we close this epistle. Divine faith, is that founded on the authority of God. It is a reception of that which is revealed in his holy word, in truth, and in the fear of God. Faith in Christ, or saving faith, is that principle wrought in the heart, by the Divine Spirit, whereby we have the witness within, that Christ is formed within us, the hope of glory.
The effects of faith, or what is produced by it, is love to Christ and his cause, confidence and joy in believing in him, and unfeigned love of the brethren, attention to his ordinances, regarding his promises and commands, and so profiting by them as to grow in grace and the knowledge of our Divine Redeemer. The life of faith is the noblest and richest blessing that we can enjoy in this world; for faith takes the soul out of the house of Adam, so to speak, and carries her into the household of God; it makes the soul forget her father's house, and expouseth her to the King of Glory; it walks in the paths of pleasantness; and under all the heat of affliction shelters itself under the shade of the tree of life.
When we behold the triumphs of faith in Christ, and that life and immortality are brought to light through the Gospel, we should not complain of the battle; for in the strength of our Redeemer his saints are to overcome. He that calleth thee to the combat loveth thee. His love is stronger than death. He is gracious and mighty to save, to assist, and to reward. Fight, then, in his strength, and thou shalt conquer and triumph.
Oh! for a strong, a lasting faith,
To credit what the Almighty saith —
To embrace the message of his Son,
And call the joys of heaven my own.
Brethren and sisters, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirits evermore.
[From Northbend Baptist Association Minutes, 1841; now known as the Northern Kentucky Baptist Association. The grammar and spelling are unchanged. — Jim Duvall]
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